I had a business lunch with a good friend yesterday. After the usual enquires about health, family, business, and holiday plans, we ended up where we always end up: mutual amazement at the endless complacency of your average employee. Not everyone, obviously. You get the rare treasures (oh how they’re treasured!) that actually do what they’re asked within a reasonable space of time.

But at least the trials of managing people makes for entertainment. So here are:

20 Realisations You Make When You Have To Manage People

  1. The first time you ask for something is not an order, even if it sounds like an order. It is simply an opening suggestion. The person you speak to will put it to the side in the hope that you’ll forget about it.
  2. If you want something done, you have to follow up on it daily. Sometimes hourly. And finally, after many “final” deadlines, you’ll receive an incorrect version that then needs to be corrected.
  3. Your correction instructions will be treated as an opening suggestion.
  4. If you want something done urgently, you have to do it yourself. At which point, expect to be obstructed by a sudden influx of queries and questions from the person whose job you’re doing, as they attempt to prove that they could have done it in the first place.
  5. The word at the water filter is that you’re a micro-manager and that you ought to just back off.
  6. Over time, you start to accumulate To Do lists. They are not yours. They are To Do lists filed alphabetically by name of the person that’s meant to be doing it. Otherwise, you’ll forget. And then the word at the water filter will be that you’re an incompetent micro-manager that ought to just back off.
  7. Subordinates like democracy, and will frequently treat your management decisions with mass disdain. And then almost unilaterally decide to ignore them.
  8. That said, subordinates only like democracy when they agree with their colleagues. When they don’t, they become autonomous dictators who will only do what they want to do, when they decide to do it. When you insist otherwise, they will demand an explanation and an HR meeting.
  9. The people that do the best work on a team will frequently leave for greener pastures, leaving you scrambling to find replacements.
  10. The people that do no work will stick around until you fire them.
  11. The people whose work jeopardises the success of the project will hand in their resignation at a crucial moment and disappear, leaving you with late nights of frantically trying to work out what they did so that you can fix it.
  12. If you’re young, you’re arrogant. If you’re old, you’re experienced. The decision and outcome are identical.
  13. Your inbox will be flooded with chain mail and cc’s, until you need an urgent response.
  14. Five hours into the day, you’ll find that the team has done no work due to IT issues. You will have to be the one to call IT.
  15. IT will not have an answer.
  16. The IT problem will suddenly fix itself for no apparent reason.
  17. Payroll comes at the worst time of the month: 25 days after your customers last paid you money, 5 days before they’ll pay you again.
  18. Cash really is king.
  19. When you go on holiday, you have to check your email. Otherwise, you spend your holiday worrying about not checking your email. Which means that there is no such thing as a day off – there are simply hours when you risk not being contactable.
  20. A delay in a provisional tax deadline can make your day. For weeks.

And actually, here’s number 21: it doesn’t matter how hard you try, there will always be someone that’s disgruntled.